Regional Report: The West

Idaho (No. 28)
Idaho’s economy, after decades of strong performance, has slowed to a crawl. Idaho’s GDP, at $58.2 billion, continues to grow at a lackluster pace, slower than all but three states. The Gem State “lags the nation and the West on the road to recovery” and will continue to do so over the short term, says economist Brian J. Greber, director of ECONorthwest research center at Boise State University. Key Idaho industries are agriculture, food processing, lumber and wood products, machinery, electronics manufacturing and mining. Idaho’s tax burden ranks 24th highest out of 50 states, and the state ranks 18th in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Climate Index. Idaho spends at least $338 million per year on incentive programs, predominantly sales tax refunds, exemptions and other discounts, according to The New York Times. Top incentives go to trucking firms and agricultural concerns.

“Idaho lags the nation and the West on the road to recovery and will continue to do so over the short term.”

Montana (No. 31)
Montana’s small-but-robust economy ($34 billion GDP) paced the national economy pre-2008, but those days seem long ago. Government is the major employer, followed by health care, retail, mining and agriculture sectors. Bankruptcy filings have been at least double the national rate since 2009. Health of the energy sector is a major economic determinant. Unemployment, chronically low by national standards, has been steadily dropping since the winter of 2010, and it was 5.1 percent in March. Montana’s tax burden ranks 37th out of 50 states, and the state ranks seventh in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index. Montana spends at least $101 million per year on incentive programs, predominantly cash grants, loans or loan guarantees, per The New York Times. Top incentives go to oil, gas and mining interests.

Washington (No. 33)
Washington State’s economy continues to grow slowly, with employment rising in most sectors, except for aerospace and the federal government. Despite sector growth, aerospace giant Boeing has been transferring jobs out of state, recently announcing that its headquarters will move, and Microsoft has taken down the “Help Wanted” signs. Local economists see continuing revenue and workforce growth by Amazon and point to resurgent software, construction, financial-service firms, hotels and restaurant sectors. Hiring is costly; the minimum wage of $9.32 leads nation. Washington’s GDP was $325 billion in 2012. The Tax Foundation ranks Washington’s tax burden 26th out of 50 states and ranks the state sixth in its State Business Tax Climate Index. Washington has neither personal nor corporate taxes, but it does collect alternative revenues, including a business & occupation tax and a gross receipts tax. The state spends over $2.35 billion per year on incentive programs, according to The New York Times, predominantly for sales tax refunds, exemptions and discounts, as well as corporate income tax credits, rebates and reductions. Top incentives go to manufacturers and agricultural concerns.